Composting Roundup

BioCycle December 2013, Vol. 54, No. 12, p. 11

Cumberland County, Pennsylvania: Equipment Sharing Efficiencies

In the early 1990s, what is now the Cumberland County Recycling and Waste Authority recognized the need for grinding and composting equipment to assist municipalities in the county with their growing streams of yard trimmings. The county surveyed municipalities about their needs and interest in sharing equipment, and received a positive response. It applied to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for grant funding to cover purchase of a tub grinder, windrow turner, trommel screen and compost spreader, notes a recent article in Recycler, a publication from the Professional Recycling Association of Pennsylvania (PROP). The program was launched in 1994. Today, 16 municipalities, the Defense Department, Messiah College and the county authority share the equipment, which now includes a Morbark and a Vermeer horizontal grinder, Vermeer windrow turners, a Retech trommel screen and a Millcreek topdresser. Municipalities are charged $8,355/year for use of the horizontal grinders, $3,720/ year for the turners, $3,365/year for the screen and $125/year for the topdresser. For more information, visit

Wallenstein Chipper Shredder BXMT4238

Wallenstein Chipper Shredder BXMT4238

New York, New York: Size-Reducing Compostable Serviceware

Earth Matter is a nonprofit composting and educational organization with its operations on Governor’s Island in New York Harbor. Earth Matter has an 11,000 sq. ft. aerated static pile composting site, which is registered with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and a 7,000 sq. ft Compost Learning Center and Demonstration Garden. It receives source separated household food waste dropped off at Greenmarkets in New York City, as well as all the organic material placed in public space food waste bins on Governor’s Island. Earth Matter is primarily funded by the New York City Department of Sanitation’s Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling (see “Community Composting In New York City,” November 2013); it has 3 full-time paid staff and 20 core volunteers.

Recently, Earth Matter posted an item in its online newsletter about a recently acquired Wallenstein Chipper Shredder BXMT4238. “This mechanical ‘animal’, with jaws that pulverize coconut shells, compostable serviceware and 3-inch diameter tree limbs into ‘dust’, is our celebrity this month,” notes the posting. “With generous funding from the Department of Sanitation’s NYC Compost Project, this tool has enabled us to accept and process a greater percentage of the current postconsumer waste collected at events. The percentage of compostable serviceware to food scraps is about 10:1. The capacity of this machine to reduce the particle size of cups, forks, plates, etc. assists in our ability to process this serviceware. The machine also allows us to reduce our carbon footprint by processing our own browns — we can now create our own wood chips using Governors Island’s small brush, instead of relying solely on truck deliveries.” Learn more at

Jackson, Mississippi: Pilot Composting Program Authorization

While it works on revisions to the state solid waste regulations to streamline the permitting process for composting businesses and operations, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has established an interim Pilot Composting Program. “This program was designed to allow new, start-up composting facility operators ample time to locate feedstock sources, develop a successful compost recipe and determine the viability of the facility — while implementing siting and management practices that protect human health and the environment,” explains Jennifer Milner, Environmental Administrator in MDEQ’s Solid Waste Policy, Planning & Grants Branch. “The limit for how much a pilot project can receive and process is typically 5,000 cubic yards on site at any one time. This includes feedstocks, materials in the process of being composted, finished compost, etc. Adjustments can be made to this requirement depending on the situation. Our goal is to try and work with the composters as much as possible to bring the facility under some kind of authorization with our agency. Therefore, in some cases, we will allow larger facilities to be authorized under the pilot program, especially if they are already in operation.”

Parties interested in starting a composting facility should request MDEQ’s “Guidance for Pilot Composting Facility Operations (, which has instructions on how to request authorization. “The interested party needs to answer the questions given in the document in a formal letter sent to the agency,” says Milner. “These questions cover siting, feedstocks, facility type, facility size, etc. The facilities authorized at present receive a variety of feedstocks such as pulp mill sludge, chicken litter, horse and donkey manure, sawdust, food scraps, seafood waste, vegetative debris and untreated wood waste.”

Haiti’s award-winning nonprofit sanitation provider SOIL (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods) hit a benchmark in mid-October, selling over 70,000 gallons of its EcoSan compost.

Haiti’s award-winning nonprofit sanitation provider SOIL (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods) hit a benchmark in mid-October, selling over 70,000 gallons of its EcoSan compost.

Port au Prince, Haiti: Market Grows For Soil’s Konpos Lakay

In an important advance toward creating a thriving, permanent market for its compost, Haiti’s award-winning nonprofit sanitation provider SOIL (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods) hit a benchmark in mid-October, selling over 70,000 gallons of its EcoSan compost. EcoSan, or ecological sanitation, is a low-cost approach to sanitation, where human wastes are collected, composted and recycled for use in agriculture and reforestation (see “Building Sustainable Sanitation Systems,” November 2012). SOIL works to expand the use of EcoSan in Haiti, which has the lowest percentage of access to adequate sanitation facilities in the Western Hemisphere. Marketed under the brandname “Konpòs Lakay,” SOIL’s compost is sold to farmers, businesses and organizations.

The customer that tipped SOIL over the 70,000-gallon mark is national brewer BRANA (Brasserie Nationale d’Haiti S.A.), a member of the multinational company Heineken, which bought 50,000 gallons for $30,000. BRANA bought the compost as part of its social responsibility program, to both support sustainable sanitation and provide its farmers with a soil amendment that will generally improve fertility, which is critical given Haiti’s widespread erosion and low nutrient soils, says Sasha Kramer, SOIL’s cofounder and executive director. BRANA said it intends to test the compost for its ability to increase local sorghum yields. “I don’t believe they had any knowledge of compost improving sorghum yields at the time [of purchase],” Kramer told BioCycle, “but I have done some research and found a few studies on compost and sorghum, the most interesting of which showed a tripling of sorghum yield on plots treated with 10 tons of compost/hectare and a 45 percent increase in plots treated with 5 tons/ hectare. The compost used in this study had only 0.75 percent nitrogen, whereas SOIL’s compost is 2.66 percent N, indicating great potential for increased sorghum yields with application of SOIL compost.” SOIL is now collaborating with BRANA, the Clinton Foundation and USAID to set up more large-scale testing with several agricultural research facilities.

At about the same time, Kramer enlisted Lawrence Berkeley National Lab scientist Gary Andersen to perform DNA testing on SOIL’s compost to get more scientific data on how its thermophilic composting process affects pathogens, with the aim of assuring it to be pathogen-free. Andersen is coinventor of the PhyloChip, a device that can test for 60,000 species of microbes in a single sample from any environmental source, without culturing, according to Kramer. To eliminate the problem of shipping compost from Haiti to the U.S., Andersen and his colleagues invented DNA Everywhere, a cheap, portable DNA extraction kit, and spent two weeks in Haiti training SOIL employees to use it. Kramer says they expect results in by the end of November.

Finally, since the devastating 2010 earthquake, SOIL has become the country’s largest waste treatment operation, collecting solid waste from 50,000 people and producing 3,000 gallons of compost every week. That trend continues to grow with SOIL’s recent contract to treat waste from Caracol Industrial Park. “We are hoping this can become a regular income-generating activity for SOIL, where we treat wastes from other entities for a tipping fee,” notes Kramer. “As there is currently no other waste treatment facility in northern Haiti, we anticipate that this activity will increase over the coming year.”

Oxnard, California: Commercial Food Waste Collection And Composting

The City of Oxnard’s Environmental Resources Division has teamed up with Whole Foods and St. John’s Hospital to launch a new commercial food waste recycling pilot program. In just one month, the two participants have already diverted more than 20 tons of food waste from local landfills, according to the City, which provided on-site training to staff at Whole Foods and St. John’s Hospital. The City collects food waste three times a week; designated 64-gallon carts are used to set out the material. The food waste is composted at Agromin’s facility in Oxnard, where green waste from the City also is processed. “In just the first week, approximately 4 tons of food waste were collected for processing into compost,” notes John Bennett, associate general manager at the Whole Foods. Adds Todd Houseley, environmental resources superintendent for the City of Oxnard: “Composting food waste will help us move toward our zero waste goals and a more sustainable future. We are hoping that this pilot program with Whole Foods and St. John’s Regional Medical Center will set the standard to serve as a model for future commercial food waste and recycling efforts.”

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